Getting your project from start to finish


Making progress toward your goals on a long-term basis requires day-to-day effort and good project- and time-management skills. It also takes a large dose of focus, stamina, and resilience. However inspired you may be, the way to success is a long road. As biologist Lothar Hennighausen of the National Institutes of Health once beautifully put it, “Without passion, we would not take on new challenges.” But “[w]ithout planning and focus, we would not stay on track. Without tenacity, we would not finish.”

So, how do you go about developing that lofty goal and the many smaller goals that will be necessary for you to reach along the way?

To help you reach your objectives this year and the following ones, Science Careers has put together some tips and tools.

Setting and pursuing goals

Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Successby Cynthia N. Fuhrmann, Jennifer A. Hobin, Philip S. Clifford, and Bill Lindstaedt, 3 December 2013myIDP (which stands for Individual Development Plan) is a free online tool that will help you chart and execute a game plan toward meeting your career advancement and skills development goals while also making progress on your research projects.

Mastering Your Ph.D.: Setting Goals for Successby Patricia Gosling and Bart Noordam, 15 December 2006 If you’re in a rut, try stepping away from the bench and spending some time writing down your short- and long-term objectives before diving into yet another experiment.

Mastering Your Ph.D.: Running in Placeby Bart Noordam and Patricia Gosling, 10 November 2006 The research objectives you sketched out for the coming year seemed reasonable on paper, yet the gap between your plans and your actual progress is growing wider every day. Here are some tips for redressing the situation.

Positive Focusing: Become a Goal-Driven Career Strategistby David G. Jensen, 17 November 2000 So, how do you go about developing that lofty goal and the many smaller goals that will be necessary for you to reach along the way? Here are some suggestions.

Project- and time-management skills

Getting to the End of Your PhDby Career Doctor, 26 August 2005 Career Doctor advises a Ph.D. student worried about finishing his dissertation on time about how he can evaluate what remains to be done and bring it to completion.

Academic Scientists at Work: Where’d My Day Go?by Jeremy M. Boss and Susan H. Eckert, 09 April 2004 To accomplish the smaller tasks that you need to do on a day-to-day basis to meet your long-term objectives, you need to take control of your time.

The PhD-Doctor: The Modular Dissertationby Herman Lelieveldt, 30 January 2004 As the years pass, many Ph.D. students go from thinking there is an infinite amount of time to get the work done to feeling nervous about how much still needs to be done in so little time. Here are some tools to help you get your dissertation done in a timely manner.

The PhD-Doctor: The Art of Finishing Upby Herman Lelieveldt, 10 October 2003 There are three important enemies of getting your dissertation done: not knowing when to stop, distraction, and the seduction of a new job. You can conquer them by following these tips.

Time Wasters: Managing Your Most Precious Resourceby David G. Jensen, 20 December 2002 If you find yourself wondering where your time went when you get home tonight, consider analyzing your day to find more time for the truly important tasks.

Project Management and Discoveryby Rob Austin, 13 September 2002 Rather than executing one long sequential plan prepared in advance, adaptive project management helps you to move through a complete planning and decision cycle for each stage of the project.

Project Management in an Uncertain Environmentby Stanley E. Portny, 23 August 2002 Scientists can benefit a lot from applying a few basic project management principles.

Take Your Worst Estimate and Double It: Project Management for Postdocsby Rich Price, 15 March 2002 Successful projects depend on thorough and continuous planning and goal reassessment.

Time IS on Your Side: Maximize Your Output to Minimize Your Stayby Mark Sincell, 25 May 2001 Time management becomes especially crucial when the burden of your daily tasks starts getting in the way of your progress toward your Ph.D. Here are some recommendations for how to do it.

Transferably Yours: Masterful Multitaskingby Phil Dee, 15 December 2000 If you doubt that you can complete your thesis on time, this advice on how to up your multitasking game may change your mind.

Resilience and stamina

Bounce back to stay in the gameby David G. Jensen, 16 September 2015 Resilience is a key ingredient for success—but its importance is often forgotten when it comes to finding your next job.

Learn how to cope in grad schoolby Rachel Bernstein, 20 August 2015 A free massive open online course called How to Survive Your PhD recognizes that, in order to finish your Ph.D., you have to be not only smart but also emotionally resilient.

Breaking the Class Ceilingby Elisabeth Pain, 22 May 2014 Students from working-class backgrounds may face additional barriers in academia, but the fortitude they have already demonstrated in getting where they are is also a powerful advantage.

Life at the Bottleneckby Ruth Müller, 26 October 2012 After studying how the academic landscape influences the working practices of postdoctoral life scientists, Ruth Müller has increased her resilience to career anxieties by keeping an open mind and considering a variety of potential fields of work.

Mind Matters: Resilienceby Irene S. Levine, 10 June 2011 There is a growing body of research and practical experience that suggests personal resilience is one reason some people succeed while others don’t.

Home Stretch to Graduationby Elisabeth Pain, 18 April 2008 You may have submitted your dissertation to your examiners’ committee, but coming away with a feeling of closure and enthusiasm for the next challenge requires dealing with lots of annoying distractions and carefully traversing some uneven emotional ground. Here are some tips for handling these hurdles.

The Ultralong-Distance Questby Lothar Hennighausen, 02 November 2007 To Lothar Hennighausen, the factors that govern success in a 1200-plus kilometer cycling race are similar to those that govern success in a research endeavor: Passion, focus, organization, and tenacity.

Mastering Your PhD: Dealing with Setbacksby Patricia Gosling and Bart Noordam, 16 February 2007 Setbacks happen in the lab. Recovering takes time, ingenuity, fortitude, patience, and—occasionally—the courage to make a major change.

When You Run Into Brick Walls: Coping With Frustrations In The Labby Irene S. Levine, 2 December 2005 Career success is often determined, in great part, by how well we cope with the curveballs that are thrown to us.

Developing Resilienceby David G. Jensen, 18 November 2005 If you’ve suffered from a lack of resilience, here are some ways to develop the thick skin it takes to survive in science.

You Are Not Aloneby Mark Sincell, 28 September 2001 The competing demands of advisers, colleagues, and a student’s own high expectations almost inevitably breed anxiety and depression. Turning to a therapist or support group can help.

The Single-Minded Pursuitby David G. Jensen, 13 August 1999 Some people achieve their career goals faster and with less agony than others, thanks to the ability to focus and make a single-minded pursuit out of their mission.

GrantDoctor: Can I get funds to support a second degree in veterinary science? How can I get postdoctoral fellowships to work in France?

In the Trenches: Science for Humanitarian Aid